Saturday, 2:15 PM
Dorchester woman dies in MBTA escalator accident
By Martin Finucane and Michael Levenson, Globe Staff
An 82-year-old Boston woman died today in an accident involving an escalator at the MBTA's State Street Station, officials said.
Helen Jackson of the city's Dorchester section was leaving the station at about 10 a.m. when she fell and a piece of her clothing got caught in the escalator, officials said.
Emergency medical technicians cut her clothing from the escalator track, and she was transported to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead, said district attorney's spokesman Jake Wark.
Boston EMS spokeswoman Jennifer Mehigan said the incident involved both an escalator accident and a "cardiac incident." She said it wasn't clear whether the woman suffered the cardiac problem before or after the escalator accident.
"There may have been a medical condition prior to her fall on the escalator," MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo said. He said the cause of death hadn't been determined. Pesaturo said the accident happened at the top of an escalator that leads out to the City Hall Plaza area.
Investigators from the Transit Police and the Suffolk district attorney's office are investigating, said Wark.
This is not the first time someone has died in an escalator accident on the MBTA. In February 2005, Franscisco Portillo, 34, a restaurant worker from East Boston, was killed at the Porter Square station when the hood of his sweatshirt slipped into a gap in the escalator's machinery, and the moving stairs wrenched it more tightly around his neck. Eventually, someone hit the emergency shutoff button on the escalator, but it was too late.
Accidents involving escalators have plagued the system for years. The old, single-file Aquarium station escalators, replaced in 2003 when a new station was built, were the scene of several, including a 1995 incident in which a 3-year-old Cambridge boy's leg was severely gashed. A year later, a Beacon Hill man got his coat caught in the escalator at State Street, ensnaring his arm, which had to be amputated.
Terrel Harris, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Public Safety, said the State Street escalator was last inspected May 27, 2008, and found nothing wrong. Escalators are supposed to be inspected annually in the state, so it was due for its next inspection this May, he said. Harris said there have not been any complaints about it not working properly.
Pesaturo said the escalator had undergone routine monthly maintenance last month and received a routine weekly inspection on Monday.
Investigators today concentrated on the machinery at the base of the escalator, and the area around it was closed down. Most commuters on their way to work or on errands were unaware of what had occurred.
"I use that escalator sometimes," said Justine Silverman, 48, on her way home to Dorchester. "Never had a problem with it. I think they should shut it down. though, until they make sure that it is safe for everyone. I'm always cautious about not getting my clothing near the stairs.''
Suzanne Crociati, 44, of Plymouth, who sometimes uses the escalator, said that about a year ago she fell to her knees when it stopped and then reversed as she was nearing the top.
Now, she said, “Maybe I’ll be walking up the stairs.”
Were you at the State Street MBTA stop when the acccident happened? Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Martin Finucane at 617-929-3342.